Tuesday, January 31, 2012

College Students' Academic Performance and Success in the Transition to Adulthood

A recent Chronicle of Higher Education article reports on a study of the relationship between students' cognitive-academic performance during college and their success in the transition to post-college life. The main findings, as summarized by the Chronicle, are as follows:

Graduates who scored in the bottom 20 percent on a test of critical thinking fared far more poorly on measures of employment and lifestyle when compared with those who scored in the top 20 percent. The test was the Collegiate Learning Assessment, or CLA, which was developed by the Council for Aid to Education.

The students scoring in the bottom quintile were three times more likely than those in the top quintile to be unemployed (9.6 percent compared with 3.1 percent), twice as likely to be living at home with parents (35 percent compared with 18 percent), and significantly more likely to have amassed credit-card debt (51 percent compared with 37 percent).

These findings do seem pretty compelling, especially the differences in unemployment rates. One caution, however, is that whenever the top and bottom 20% on some measure (in this case, the CLA) are compared on later attainments, we learn nothing about the 60% in the middle. The technical report of the study presents comparisons between three groups: top 20% on the CLA, middle 60%, and bottom 20%. (I would have preferred to see all five of the quintiles compared; i.e., the highest, second-highest, middle, second-lowest, and lowest 20%).

As seen in the technical report, on some outcomes the middle 60% on the CLA fared similarly to the top 20% (e.g., on likelihood of living at home after college and of being married or cohabiting), whereas on other measures the middle 60% more closely resembled the bottom 20% (e.g., on credit-card debt). (See Figures 3 and 6 of the technical report.)

I've written previously about the CLA and critical thinking, in another outlet, for readers seeking additional background.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Presidential Candidate Ron Paul Garners Younger Voters' Support

With the Iowa Caucuses taking place tonight to kick-off the Republican presidential nomination fight, TIME Magazine has an article on how one of the candidates, Ron Paul, seems to be doing well with younger voters. As much (or more) a Libertarian as a Republican, Paul conveys his views with statements such as the following one quoted in the TIME article:

“What you want to do with your life, what your religious beliefs are, what your intellectual pursuits are, what your private habits are — that’s part of freedom.”

This one brief quote is amazingly rich in Emerging Adulthood themes. As Jeffrey Arnett details here, three aspects of EA are identity exploration, possibilities, and self-focus.  Religious beliefs, intellectual pursuits, etc., are of course part of identity exploration and development. What one wants to do with one's life suggests (to me at least) the idea of open possibilities -- if one wants to pursue advanced education, travel, work in a certain profession, start a family, etc., one potentially can do so. And ultimately, as Paul implies, all these decisions are up to the individual, similar to Arnett's notion of self-focus.

LATE-NIGHT UPDATE:  Paul indeed dominated the Republican voting among younger participants, according to a poll of randomly selected caucus attendees.  Paul took an estimated 48% of the 17-29 year-old vote, with the next highest percentage from that age group (23%) going to Rick Santorum. When the poll results were broken out further into 17-24 and 25-29 year-old subgroups, Paul did comparably well in each, garnering 50% and 45% of the vote, respectively. (As an aside, it initially seemed odd to me that 17-year-olds were listed in the results; I looked into the matter and, as I suspected, 17-year-olds can participate as long as they will be 18 by the November general election.)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Young-Adult Women, Education, and the Labor Force

The New York Times recently had an article about how young women were increasingly opting to obtain additional education rather than join the labor force. One of the charts accompanying the story showed that among 16-24 year-old females, the percentage in school has exceeded that in the labor force during the last few years.